EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has insisted that there is no scope for lesser price cuts under EU sugar reform.

“The proposed figure of 39% is not chosen by accident,” she told the European parliament’s agriculture committee on Tuesday (13 Sept).

“If we want to assure a well functioning restructuring scheme, manage imports without major disruption or avoid having to impose quota reductions, it all comes back to the same question – getting the price right.”

Anything less would leave the sugar market out of kilter, leading to continued uncertainty.

Mrs Fischer Boel played down concerns that the EU market would be flooded by imports as a result of the everything-but-arms (EBA) agreement.

Some have argued that benefiting countries will source even cheaper sugar from places like Brazil and ship it to the EU as their own.

The commissioner said that would amount to fraud. “EBA exporter countries have their own consumers to supply,” she added. “One should not assume that they would be prepared to send their entire production to the EU.”

Mrs Fischer Boel estimated that EBA shipments would come to a maximum 2.2m tonnes, leaving 12.2m tonnes for EU beet growers.

But the MEPs were far from convinced. Danish Liberal Democrat Niels Busk was the only one to support the commission proposals.

Most others believed the price cuts would wipe out large swathes of EU production.

German Green Friedrich-Wilhelm Barringdorf said money for the restructuring scheme should be used to encourage the production of bio-fuels.

Mrs Fischer Boel said this could be included in the commission’s “biomass action plan” to be unveiled later this year.

* Brussels is poised to “declassify” between 1.4m tonnes and 2.5m tonnes of sugar for sale onto the world market as C sugar. The move is designed to reduce stocks ahead of the sugar reforms.

But other world producers say it is unacceptable dumping that contravenes the recent WTO ruling against C sugar.

The EU counters that that ruling has not yet come into force.